HC Deb 25 March 1892 vol 2 cc1885-930
(9.0.) MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)

I rise for the purpose of moving the Motion which stands on the Paper in my name. I should have preferred to have dealt with this question in the provisions of a Bill if such a course had been open to me rather than by way of an abstract Resolution. It may be within the recollection of hon. Members present that last Session I obtained leave to introduce a Bill for the purpose, but after the Bill was prepared I discovered that it was contrary to the Forms of the House for a private Member to introduce legislation involving the expenditure of public money, and I was, therefore, obliged to move the discharge of the Order. I mention this simply for the purpose of showing that in proceeding to deal with a question such as this by way of abstract Resolution, I am taking the only course open to me by which I can obtain the judgment of the House upon a question as to which, personally, I entertain a very strong opinion, and an opinion which I have every reason to believe is shared by a very large number of people outside this House. Before I proceed to state the grounds upon which this demand for the payment of Members of Parliament is based, let me briefly examine some of the criticisms which have been urged against the proposal in this House and elsewhere; a proposal, let me say, the principle of which is accepted, and is in force in every civilised country outside the United Kingdom and in all our Colonies. This is a simple matter of fact that will not be denied by any hon. Member who may take part in this Debate. But while it will not be denied that payment of Members is a principle and practice universally accepted, it has been said, and I suppose it will be urged again to-night, that the practice has not worked so well in those countries where it has been adopted as to justify its adoption by the Imperial Parliament. It has also been urged — with what show of reason I have never yet been able to discover—but it is strongly urged that if we accept the principle of this Resolution, and legislation based upon it should afterwards be passed, we should introduce into the political life of this country the worst features prevalent in Continental politics. It is said that the people who would be benefited by such legislation would not be the people for whose benefit it would be intended, but persons described as "place-hunters and self-seeking demagogues"—such was the phrase applied to a certain class of politicians on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) when opposing this proposal on 29th March, 1889. I think, upon a moment's reflection, it must be admitted that the voluntary or gratuitous principle on which our Parliamentary representation is at present based does not free us entirely from the evils arising from such characters as those described by the hon. Member for Flintshire. It is a well-known fact, and it will not, I think, be questioned by any hon. Member in this Debate, that at every contested election, local or general, we hear again and again of such characters as "carpet-baggers," who go down to a constituency in the hope that they may induce the electors to return them as Members of the House of Commons. But if these gentlemen who parade the country in this character do not expect a monetary indemnity for their services if they secure election, they do expect an equivalent to a monetary indemnity in the social position and social distinction attaching to membership of this House. The voluntary principle upon which our Parliamentary representation is based does not avoid the evil alluded to, and I certainly do not think the evil would be aggravated or the influence of such persons would be extended if this Resolution were accepted. My hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire, who urged this argument on a previous occasion, referred in support of it to that very able work of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), The American Commonwealth, and he quoted long extracts from that book to demonstrate the truth of his argument that the payment of Members was the formative cause of the existence of such persons as he described as "place-hunters and self-seeking demagogues." But let me read another extract from that able and interesting work:—"Those English writers"—and what the author says of English writers applies equally to English speakers on this question— Those English writers who describe the payment of Members as the formative cause of that class are mistaken. That class would have existed had Members not been paid, and would continue to exist if payment were withdrawn. So, then, it is clear we must look to some other influence than the payment of Members as the cause of that political corruption, if political corruption exists, in those countries that were referred to on a former occasion when this question was before the House. It is argued on the same ground that the adoption of this principle would lead to corruption in the House of Commons. I frankly admit that the greatest possible care ought to be taken to prevent such a result, and if I for a moment could bring myself to the conclusion that the adoption of a principle such as this would be calculated in the slightest degree to lower the tone of debate or the dignity of the proceedings of this House, I should be the very last person to urge the House to accept the proposal. But it may be interesting to the House to know that when this proposal was first made in Parliament it was made with a view "to restore representation to its ancient purity," and it was supported by Lord Althorp, Lord Ebrington, Lord Russell, Lord Howick, now Earl Grey, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Hobhouse, and Mr. Joseph Hume, whom everyone knows was a most rigid economist. Lord Blandford—who, I believe, was a relative of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill)—in introducing a Reform Bill in 1830, gave expression to these remarkable words— As the object of this Bill is to restore the representation to its ancient purity I propose to restore the principle and practice of paying Members the wages of attendance, according to the value of money at the present day. On a Division being taken, the proposal had the support of those distinguished gentlemen whose names I have read out to the House. On a former occasion when I brought this proposal before the House, the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite who represents the Eastbourne Division (Admiral Field) spoke strongly in opposition to the proposal, and referred to the corrupting influence of the payment of Members in some of our Colonial Parliaments, and particularly he referred to the Victorian Parliament, which he said was "capable of being bribed and bought."

ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I did not say "was"; I said "had been."


That materially alters the question. I am glad to have the correction, because it materially strengthens the argument I shall have to bring before the House. I am sure of this: that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not say that, since the adoption of payment of Members by the Victorian Parliament, it has been possible at any time to bribe or buy over that Institution.


As the hon. Gentleman appeals directly to me, I must interrupt him with a reply. The case to which I referred occurred some years ago, but at the time the Members were paid, and the gentleman to whom I alluded stated that he had bribed.


In this connection let me read an extract from that well-known work by Sir Charles Dilke, Problems of Greater Britain. Referring to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman Sir Charles Dilke says:— A British Admiral not long ago made a speech in which he asserted that the Victorian Parliament could be bought or bribed. That speech did great harm, besides being untrue. Several colonial newspapers commented on the speech, and one of them, by no means friendly to the Government or the Parliament of Victoria, said, 'Our Members are bad enough at striving for office, but our Legislature is one of the purest in the world. Bribery and corruption are absolutely unknown in our politics.' Further, I may be allowed to read an extract from a speech delivered by a still greater authority, the Hon. James Munro, at the time Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament—a position I am told he still holds. In a speech delivered at the Liverpool Reform Club on 17th March, 1890, Mr. Munro said— Each Member of the Victorian Parliament is paid £300 a year, whether Parliament is sitting or not. The result of this payment has been exceedingly satisfactory. We have an honest Parliament, and a Parliament greatly in accord with the wishes of the people, who are well served by it. So, whatever may have been the case with the Victorian Parliament at the time referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend, if he will allow me to call him so, I feel sure, after hearing the extracts I have read, it will not be contended that the Victorian Parliament is now open to a charge of corruption and bribery. Passing from these criticisms—and I wish to be brief in order to afford hon. Members who may desire to take part in this Debate such opportunity as the limited time at our disposal allows—I come to the grounds on which I base this claim, that a reasonable allowance should be granted to Members for the discharge of public duties in Parliament. My first proposition is this: that constituencies are entitled to absolute liberty in the selection of their Representatives. Parliament having granted the franchise to every householder in the United Kingdom, I take it it was the intention of Parliament in this extension that every elector should have the fullest liberty of choice in selecting the person who, in his opinion, is best able to represent his views both on local and Imperial questions. That is a proposition not to be contested; it is unnecessary for me to take up time in demonstrating it; it is self-evident. I shall be very much surprised if I hear any hon. Member in the course of this Debate contest that proposition. My second contention is that the principle of gratuitous services limits the choice and deprives electors of the services of men otherwise fully competent to represent their opinions in the Imperial Parliament. This proposition may be open to some criticism, and some hon. Gentleman may rise in the course of this Debate and question whether the principle of gratuitous service does limit the area of choice in the selection of a candidate; but it can only be contended that there is absolute freedom of choice on the ground that constituencies who desire, for example, to have what is known as a Labour Representative can only give effect to their wishes by taxing themselves for the maintenance and support of their Representatives during the time Parliament is in Session. To this extent labour would be the only class taxed for Parliamentary representation. Now, my hon. Friend the Member for Flintshire said in reference to this point— There is no difficulty in finding men ready to become candidates for Parliamentary honours, to serve any office they might be entrusted with, or even to devote their whole lives to their legislative duties gratuitously. There are two observations I have to make on this argument: In the first place, it seems to me that such an argument is applicable to all services in this House, Ministerial services as well as the services of private Members. I am surprised that my hon. Friend did not on that occasion press his argument to its logical conclusion, because Ministerial duties differ from the services of private Members only in point of degree and not in principle. It may very fairly be argued, and the argument must, I think, be admitted, that there must be a different scale of remuneration for Ministerial services; but still I contend the difference of service is in degree, not in principle. Another observation I have to make on the argument of my hon. Friend is that it is based on the assumption that, England being a wealthy country, with a large leisured class, larger probably than any other country in Europe, therefore that class should be endowed with the privilege of legislating for all other classes in the community. To this I can only say it is a doctrine which, however it may commend itself to some minds, is sadly out of date in these democratic days. I, for one, will never contend that it is possible, or that it will be possible, for any member of any class to enter this House. Intelligence in every class must rule, and the highest intelligence will undoubtedly find its way into this House. As I have already said, I do not wish in any sense to lower the standard of ability—the standard of dignity—in this House, and most certainly I would not take any course calculated to bring about such an end; but I am impressed with the thought that the country loses much valuable service from the fact that services rendered in Parliament are based on the gratuitous principle—a principle which, therefore, excludes many men of great ability and wide experience, men who at a time like this, when social and industrial questions are coming prominently to the front and exercising the minds of Governments and public men, would render valuable assistance to this House in arriving at a proper judgment on matters of the highest national importance. Such men are excluded by an arrangement which prevents any man of moderate means from entering this House. I commend to the House the words of, perhaps, one of the greatest economists of the age, and who certainly did not favour the course I am now endeavouring to persuade the House to adopt. John Stuart Mill, in his reference to the subjection of women, puts the point with a force no language of mine can equal— In all things of any difficulty and importance those who can do them well are fewer than the need, even with the most unrestricted latitude of choice; and any limitation of the field of selection deprives society of some chances of being served by the competent, without ever saving it from the incompetent. That is the position in which we find ourselves. The fear of making politics a profession has deprived the nation of much valuable service, for entrance into this House practically depends on a money qualification. But I must hasten to my proposals to remedy this state of things. In order to afford the electors greater freedom in the selection of their Representatives, I propose that Members should be paid a reasonable allowance for attending to public duties in Parliament. Now, it cannot be denied that this proposal is partially in operation at the present time. I do not wish to make any personal observations. I have already referred to the payments for Ministerial services, which differs in degree but not in principle from the services of private Members of this House, and I find from a Return laid before Parliament in 1888 that there were then in Parliament three Majors in the Army, two Colonels, six Lieutenants, one Commander and one Admiral—thirteen officers of the Army and Navy, some of them upon half-pay, some upon full pay—the aggregate amount paid to them being £6,840, or an average of £526 per annum. These Gentlemen are nominally paid for the discharge of military and naval duties; they are exempt from the discharge of their official functions during the time Parliament is in Session, so that while nominally paid for naval and military duties, they are in reality paid for the discharge of their duties in this House. The question may be asked what I consider a reasonable allowance, and I will meet that point in the frankest possible manner. Before doing so, however, I should like to cite the condition of things obtaining in some other Legislative Assemblies: France pays the Members of the Chamber of Deputies £360; Brazil and Mexico, £600; Canada and Queensland, £2 2s. per day and expenses; South Australia, £200; Victoria, £300; Belgium and the Netherlands, £200; New Zealand, £100; Prussia, £1 per day; United States, £1,000 and travelling expenses; and Japan, £160. I think that having regard to all the difficulties that Members have to contend with, coming from the North of Scotland, and from the South and West of Ireland at great personal inconvenience and at direct personal cost, a reasonable allowance might be something like £365 a year. That, in my humble judgment, is a reasonable allowance — an allowance I should be prepared to assent to as being sufficient to enable a person coming from the humble ranks of life to live not in any degree of luxury but to live in a manner becoming his position as the Representative of a great constituency, and a Member of a great Imperial Parliament like our own. There are one or two matters of detail to which I would like to refer before sitting down. If this proposal were accepted, I think it would be necessary to take some precautions to prevent bogus candidates being started at the time of an Election, and I would be prepared to assent to any arrangement which would compel candidates to make a deposit on going to the poll, which deposit they would forfeit unless they received a certain definite percentage of the total poll. In the event of a number of candidates being started and no candidate receiving more votes than half the total poll, I would agree to a second ballot, so as to secure that the person elected was the legitimate and bonâ fide Representative of the majority of the constituency. These are matters of detail which can easily be arranged if my Resolution is adopted. It only remains for me, in conclusion, to recapitulate my position. My contention is, that the constituencies are entitled to the greatest freedom in the choice of their candidates; that our present position limits the area of choice, and deprives the nation of the services of men who are otherwise competent to render it good service; and, thirdly, I ask that this allowance should be made in order to remove the difficulty. I hope I have stated my position with clearness and without offence, and I have only to thank the House for having listened to me. Believing in the reasonableness and the justness of the proposal, I beg to move the Resolution standing in my name.

(9.45.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (&c.) Leith,

I rise, Sir, to second the Resolution. Since this question was last broached it has received increased support, and not long ago it was accepted at Newcastle as a part of the programme of the Liberal Party to be carried into force at the earliest opportunity. The last Debate on this subject in this House three years ago was only a qualified success. There was on that occasion a Count-out, not on the direct Motion, but after an exhaustive speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, who wished to move a Resolution that could not be brought before the House. Hon. Members went to dine, and the Debate consequently collapsed, but to-night there will be an opportunity of testing the feeling of the House in the matter. Three years ago the hon. and learned Member for East Fife, the hon. Baronet the Member for North Northumberland, and the right hon. Member for Newcastle laid down admirably the general principles on which this proposal rests. They were answered by the Home Secretary and by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India. I do not think a strong case was made out against the proposal of my hon. Friend. The main arguments were that the system would be costly, and that it would prove demoralising. The cost was estimated at a quarter of a million, which is, no doubt, a considerable sum. But that argument cuts both ways, and it would certainly invite attack upon institutions which are the delight of hon. Gentlemen opposite. No doubt the sum might be reduced by a reduction in the number of Members. But as regards the demoralising effects, I would like if someone opposite would explain how it is that to afford a bare subsistence to lawmakers is so different in principal from giving large salaries to those who are interpreters of the law. You cannot have salaries too big for the interpreters of the law. There is a great deal to be said for that view. Our Judges have large salaries and a considerable retiring allowance. I can point to a more striking instance. You cannot get a competent Attorney General or Solicitor General for a sum under £10,000 a year, and we are all ready to admit that the men we get are always up to the highest standard, at no time more than the present. Besides that allowance they require absolute freedom as to the passing of their time and the selection of their briefs, even when trespassing almost on the debateable ground of politics. All this and more may be said without the element of demoralisation entering, but the moment it is proposed to pay the expenses of a man getting into Parliament, or his salary while in Parliament, then it is said—though the man is willing to give his energy, his talents, and his time to the service of his country—that it is undermining his self respect and destroying his capacity for doing good. All is brought about by giving him £350 a year on which to live. Now, Sir, I should like to know what is the principle which underlies this distinction between the interpreters of the law—the administrators of the law in almost countless numbers—and those who make the law in this House. Why is that which is good for them poison for us? Let us take another case. My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife three years ago put that of Ministers sitting in this House. I will not refer to the case of Ministers, but simply to that of political pensioners. Our motives and the motives of our supporters are being closely scrutinised in this matter, and I think, therefore, it is quite fair to try and imagine what the feelings are of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who accept political pensions. A political pensioner is a man who is endowed out of office to enable him to devote himself to supporting the interests of his Party. He has paid his Election expenses and been able to come to London, but then, finding himself in straitened circumstances, he receives an allowance which is much the same as the retiring allowance of an Ambassador — an amount that would support four Members under the scheme proposed by my hon. Friend. Nobody believes that these pensions sap the integrity of the right hon. Gentlemen who receive them, because we all know that some of the most honoured Members of this House are in receipt of political pensions. It is difficult to see how it can be maintained by anyone who approves of political pensions that no case has been made out for the payment of Members of this House. My hon. Friend who moved this Resolution is a type of men who has been welcomed to this House. Even those who are unfavourable to an undue or enlarged representation of the working classes will be ready to admit that the miners have selected their Representatives wisely, and that they are entirely worthy of the confidence of this House. Yet these men are paid by their Unions, and it is impossible to conceive any system more likely to tie the Representatives to the whims and caprices of those who sent them to this House. Besides the miners' representation there is the representation of Ireland. Not long ago some hon. Members opposite were never tired of pointing the finger of scorn at their Irish colleagues. It was constantly said that American dollars were controlling the representation of that part of the United Kingdom. I do not know that colonial contributions would be refused for the Carlton; I do know that support from the representatives of the Anglo-Saxon States of America is always reprobated by this House. If British sovereigns are better than American (and I am not prepared to dispute that proposition) here is a golden opportunity. But the support of Members is not confined to the Representatives of labour or to the Irish Representatives. Is there no trace of the old pocket boroughs in these days? Are there no members who receive more assistance from their Party than stump orators and official organisers? This power may not have been abused in the past in the case of the old close boroughs; it may not be abused now. It certainly is not conducive to independence. I think the custom of assisting Members is sufficiently prevalent to constitute a very effective argument in favour of the cost of representation being borne by the State rather than it should come from Trades Unions, the Clan-na-Gael, the Caucus, Plutocrats, or American servant girls. I should think it will be found that pretty nearly one half of a very numerous House is already in receipt of assistance of one kind or another; and it is difficult therefore to understand the opposition which is offered to a proposal such as this. We know quite well that the Tory Members wish to keep things as they are. They say that they possess the rank and the wealth of the country in great abundance, at any rate the Tory Party has a greater command than the Liberal Party of men of leisure and property, and these men constitute formidable candidates in their different localities. The Tory field for candidates is wide enough already; on the other hand our position is different. We believe in drawing our representation from a wider field; we believe in enlarging our recruiting ground in order that all classes may be more fairly represented. Some alarm has been expressed that this proposal will bring upon us a host of professional politicians. But we have a certain number of professional politicians amongst us now. And I would ask whether the amateur system can be regarded as wholly satisfactory? Some men cannot come to the House until they have made their pile, and perhaps they would do better work if it did not take them quite so long to do so. Others come here when they are making money, and it is even whispered that some come here to make money and spend more time at that than upon their Parliamentary duties. I do not think that business would be worse done if fewer Members were in regular attendance. The President of the Board of Trade said that the consequence of a Bill of this kind would be that we should be flooded with youthful barristers and penny-a-liners, but if you had paid Members you would undoubtedly be able to draw forth a larger proportion of local men. We have millions of voters in this country; they have only a few thousand from whom they can select their representatives; they ask us for freedom of selection, and we ought to give it. It is no use introducing the subject of foreign experience into this Debate, for that will only make the discussion interminable. But, Sir, deductions have been drawn from the book on the American Commonwealth of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), that certain unsatisfactory features of the American Congress are due to the payment of Members. I regret the absence from indisposition of my hon. Friend, but I know his opinion is that American experience ought not to be cited against us, and that it is untrue to say either that the payment of Members degrades Congress, or that the Congress would be improved if Members were not on salary. No one in the United States feels that a Member is degraded by getting a salary. I am not prepared to say that the ideal of rendering unpaid service to the State may not be a high one. But we have not yet had any consideration placed before us which would raise a doubt in our minds as to the expediency or advantage of the plan which we now submit to the House. Considering the circumstances in which we are placed in, we have such faith in the justice of our contention that no British subject should be excluded from the House by reason of any pecuniary disadvantage, that we can never abandon the principle of the Motion which I second. And if we have no faith that the Electors of these kingdoms will do their duty, we may abandon all hope for the future of the representative Government under which we live.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "as the principle of gratuitous public service upon which representation in this House is at present based, limits the freedom of constituencies in the selection of their representatives, this House is of opinion that a reasonable allowance should be granted to Members for their services in Parliament,"—(Mr. Fenwick,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

(10.5.) MR. HAYES FISHER (Fulham)

The hon. Member who has submitted this Motion in a straightforward speech gave as his principal reason in support of it that the limit of the choice of the labour portion of the community was so great that they were unable to send the Representatives they desired to send to this House. But before dealing with that point he said, with great manliness and straightforwardness, that he wished he could have introduced his views to the House in the shape of a Bill. I wish also he could have done so, for I should like to see what view the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian would have taken of that Bill. What we want to know is, whether this is the most recent item in the authorised programme of the Party opposite? I have had circulated in my constituency by my opponent a leaflet which denounces me as voting against the fundamental principles of this new item of the authorised programme of the Radical Party. Well, we want to know whether that is so or not. One advantage we should certainly have had if this had been a Bill instead of a Resolution is that we should have known what salary we might expect if we were returned to Parliament and hon. Members opposite were in power. We had a variety of quotations from the hon. Member for Wansbeck as to what the salaries of Members of Parliament are in a variety of countries. But he omitted from the list of quotations the Argentine Republic in 1888. I suppose there is no quotation of a salary of £1,000 a year for Members of the Argentine Republic. My objection to this proposal is chiefly on this ground—I think the proposal would strike a blow at the system of gratuitous public service. And I maintain that the system of gratuitous public service is Great Britain's greatest glory. An hon. Member says "No, no," but I would like him to tell me anything more admirable in the national life of this country than the fact that you can find numbers of men ready to give up all their leisure time at much sacrifice in order to carry out their public duties, not only in this House but upon innumerable bodies, both charitable and educational, without pay and without patronage, and certainly on those charitable and educational bodies without hope of any social reward or distinction. And I say, if such a measure as this is ever carried, to my mind there will be the greatest danger that you will not in future obtain the services of these men who now make private sacrifices for public duty. You may say of such a measure as this, if you pay Members of Parliament you will not destroy that spirit, because it is an inherited tradition of the British character. Well, you may not destroy it all at once, but you will go far to sap it. As a representative body the people are well affected towards us because they believe we come here without any hope of gain or reward for the most part. And, if we set the example that we will not work without pay you will have it adopted as a formula throughout the whole country that nobody shall do anything for nothing. But, examining the arguments which have been put forward in support of this Resolution, I do not see why, if we are to be paid, gentlemen who serve on County Councils should not also put forward their demand for payment, and not only County Councillors, but Town Councillors, Parochial Councillors, District Councillors, Members of School Boards, and many members who now serve upon numerous public bodies and give their services gratuitously. The argument in support of this Resolution that the choice of Members of Parliament is limited at present applies also to County Councils, in regard to whom the choice is also limited. Until you pay County Councillors, who sometimes have to go a long distance to attend meetings, you cannot expect a wade choice, and that remark will apply to District Councils and many other public bodies. County Councillors and others may justly say, You have the dignity and honour of belonging to the British House of Commons, and you have many social advantages which we do enjoy. You have your picnics to Portsmouth, you have your receptions for your wives and daughters. ("Oh! oh!") Well, I fancy hon. Members opposite will be very glad to go to receptions too when their Party is in office. And you have a great deal of notice taken of you in the Press. But in reference to Members of the Parish or County Council, when they are noticed, it is never with any favour or satisfaction. You have all these advantages and many others to repay you for your time and sacrifice of leisure; and why should we not pay County Councillors in money for their services which are not paid for in any other way? And look at the enormous bill you could run up. The hon. Member for Wansbeck would be content with the payment of Members of Parliament of £365 a year. That would amount, excluding Ministers who are paid already, to about £230,000 a year. That in a year is a good round sum to be given by the public for the privilege of being allowed to choose their Representatives from a wider circle and a larger area. To my mind, the argument is much stronger for the payment of the expenses of Members when elected. I might be prepared to give consideration to that, but I would oppose any Motion for the payment of salaries to Members of Parliament. County Councillors and Members of other public bodies would demand to be paid, and, instead of being a modest bill of a quarter of a million, if hon. Members choose to work out the sum and give the most modest salary to the members of most of these Public Bodies, the amount will come much nearer a million and a half a year than any other sum. Why should we pay many men of leisure and ability who are perfectly able and willing to render their services gratuitously? When I hear of the Colonies and foreign countries setting an example to the Parliament of this country, which is the mother of Parliaments, I think rather that this Parliament should set an example to her daughters. And as the daughters become older they may also have men of leisure and ability to perform the very services which men of leisure and ability perform in this country. And I shall not be at all surprised to find some of those Colonies reverting to the system we have at present, and relying upon the gratuitous services of their citizens for public work. As to the argument about corruption, I care comparatively little about that. It is purely a speculative opinion as to whether, if you paid Members of Parliament £300 a year, you would or would not increase the number of place men and self-seeking demagogues, and whether you would not have Members of this House who would desire to eke out their somewhat narrow incomes by taking bribes to vote in a particular way in Private Bill legislation. That is a point on which we cannot form any conclusion until we try what Members are and what they will do when they have to rely for the maintenance of themselves, their wives, and families upon £300 a year. The onus probandi is on those who wish to alter the existing state of things. Has the hon. Member who introduced the Resolution made out a sufficient case for so great a change? His great argument was that the labouring portion of the community was excluded from Parliament. I grant there is a partial grievance, and that it is difficult for them to return Members who can voice directly their particular needs and wants. That may be so, but the position of affairs in that respect has been very much exaggerated. I believe yon may see in this country, without any alteration in our present system at all, a very great increase in the Labour Representatives. When the working men come to see, after all, that by a very little self-denial they can send to Parliament the man of their choice and maintain him suitably, other constituencies besides that of the hon. Member for Wansbeck will send Members of their own choice and will afford to pay them such sums as are needed for their maintenance here. And, after all, is there a grievance? Has there been any great want of progress in legislating for the social and material progress of the people because Members of Parliament are unpaid, and will it be quickened in the least if you have paid Members of Parliament? In that case you may make very much slower progress than at present with the business of the nation. It will be the earnest desire of those Members of Parliament to stand well with their constituents, and there will be a great many more men in this House who will desire to take part in the proceedings, and so the business will be greatly delayed. Has there been any want of attention to the interests of the people by this House of Commons? The hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Roby) says "Yes." But have not technical measures in reference to mining and the industries of the country generally been passed by large majorities in this House, and have not they been met with approval by the Labour Representatives in whose interests they were passed? That legislation has largely been founded upon evidence taken before Commissions and Committees, to whom the working classes could submit evidence by the mouths of their own Representatives. I do not think any case has been made out for a change, for though there may be some partial grievance, some very small loss to one class of the community, you are asking the whole country, by changing its system, to put up with a far greater loss which would completely outbalance the advantage any section of the community could derive from Members being paid. Another strong argument against paying Members is that in this House we are too little independent of our constituents already, but when we rely for the maintenance of ourselves and our families solely upon our salary of £300 a year we will become even less independent than we are at the present moment. And I may say for myself, if I had had in this Parliament to depend for a living of £300 a year upon being returned by my constituents, I might on many occasions have been found in the Opposition Lobby. I might have been unable to vote as I have done, because some of the votes might have been thought dangerous for me in the very delicate state of my relations to my constituency. I shall always oppose any proposition to pay Members of Parliament, because it strikes at the gratuitous system of public service in this country, and also because it tends to diminish the independence of Members of Parliament, for I agree with Mr. Burke when he said that "a worthy representative of free men must himself be free."

(10.20.) MR. DALZIEL (&c.) Kirkcaldy,

I feel, looking to the general character of the House, that an apology is almost necessary on the part of a new Member for intervening in this Debate. And the only reason I have to offer for doing so is that in the contest in which I have recently been engaged, I placed the question of the payment of Members in the very forefront of my political programme. It is true the general question before that constituency was the question of decentralisation, and also the great labour programme. But I never lost one single opportunity of expressing my opinion that until the reform that is now before the House was carried, it would be impossible to hope that one single item of the labour programme could be carried into effect. The hon. Member who has just resumed his seat has told the House that the passing of this Resolution would deal a blow at the system of gratuitous public service. I should like to know exactly where the line is to be drawn with reference to that particular position. If it strikes a blow at gratuituous public service, so far as ordinary Members of this House are concerned, surely it ought also to strike a blow at the gratuitous service of hon. Members who rise to the distinction of becoming Members of the Cabinet. What I contend is that if gratuitous public service is such a good thing in itself as the hon. Member would advise the House it is, it ought surely to be good not only in the capacity of a private Member, but also in the capacity of a Member of the Government. And when the hon. Member says if we pass this proposal County Councillors will also have a claim for remuneration for their services, we entirely endorse that opinion. I have no claim to speak on behalf of the Mover of this Resolution, so far as I am personally concerned; but I think every man, whether County Councillor or Member of Parliament, or who occupies some other higher position in the management of public affairs, ought to be properly remunerated for his services. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hayes Fisher) instanced the case of a man who has to travel a distance in order to attend meetings of the County Council. Well, it is surely too much to ask that man to devote a great deal of time to the public matters of his locality, and also to be out of pocket for the expenses necessary to carry him to the place of meeting of that particular County Council. The hon. Member gave as another objection to the Resolution the argument that it would cost the country an immense amount of money. But I imagine, if this proposal were carried, the question of cost will be a very small consideration indeed, in comparison with the advantage the House and the country would gain. In my humble opinion, the first House of Commons to be elected on a system of payment of Members would save what Mr. Taylor said they would save when he introduced this proposal to the House—they would save the years' salaries. The inevitable result would be that they would be able to devote their whole attention to public affairs; the House would be able to get a firmer grip over the Estimates, and the general result would be advantageous to the whole community. The hon. Member asked whether the legislation of the past was not of such a character as to lead us to believe that Parliament was perfectly able to deal with the social and political questions of the hour? I think the very fact that this question is before the House is a proof that the present system of electing Members to the House of Commons is a complete and absolute failure. Need I remind the House that this very proposal was being discussed something over 100 years ago, that it was brought forward in 1830, again in 1845, and, still later, in 1870? If we had had a representative House of Commons thoroughly in touch with the democratic spirit of the age that proposal would have been carried, and we should not have been discussing it now. With regard to other questions, we have absolute proof that the House of Commons has not been in advance at least of the opinion of the democracy. Take the question of Catholic emancipation; will the hon. Member say why it was that fully 30 years of agitation were necessary before that moderate reform was carried? Will he explain why so many years of agitation were required before the great Reform Bill could be carried, or why so many weary years of agitation had to pass before the franchise was extended in 1885? All these facts seem to prove that there is something wrong with the wheels of the Constitution, that Parliament, as at present elected, is not thoroughly representative of the people, but, on the contrary, needs to be radically reformed. I support the proposal before the House, because I believe that it is absolutely impossible to obtain legislation of any real practical benefit for the great masses of the people until we have the system of payment of Members in this country. Had this Parliament been elected on a system of payment of Members, the moderate proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton to adopt arbitration in wages' disputes would not have been rejected. The reasonable proposal of the hon. Member for Glasgow that the taxation of the country should be on the proper shoulders would also have had a very different reception, and this week we have had abundant evidence of the inability of the present Parliament to deal with labour questions. The proposal of the hon. Member for Durham, which was not sweeping in its character, was rejected by the House, and all other labour questions have been similarly treated, because the electors of the country are compelled to look to one particular class for the selection of their Representatives, and are prevented from electing men who could speak with authority on the great social questions in which the constituencies are interested. Let us look for a moment at the composition of the present House of Commons. It consists of 209 Members who are directly representative of the landed interest, 128 representing the Army, the lawyers are represented by 135, the liquor interest by 24, the money interest by 33, the official interest—which consists of Ministers and non-Ministers—by 91, the railway interest by 62, the literary and professional interest by 27, the trading community and manufacturing interest by 186, and the labour interest by eight Members. I do not suppose anybody will be bold enough to say that the labour interest is over represented. On the contrary, I think the labour interest is the largest and most important in the country, and ought to have a fair representation, if not a preponderating majority. This proposal is the necessary sequel of the extension of the franchise, and until it is carried the object aimed at in extending the franchise will certainly not be accomplished. We seek to make the field of selection wider than it has yet been. Any man, however low in station he may be, provided he has the ability and capacity to take an honourable part in public affairs, ought not to be prevented, by the mere fact that he is poor, from aspiring to the position to which his ability entitles him. It is urged against this proposal that it would lead to the introduction into the House of professional politicians. I have more respect for the electors of the country than to believe they are incapable of selecting the man who honestly offers his services rather than the man who comes before them in order to gain political or social distinction. The constituencies of the country are capable of choosing between the political adventurer and the honest politician. The issue before the House is whether we are prepared to place the government of the country absolutely in the hands of the people. Are we to have a House of Commons consisting of Representatives of one class only? We ought to have no limit in the selection of Members, but to make the field of selection as wide as possible. The question is one between class government and democratic government. To my mind there is no loss of dignity in extending the power of the electors to enable them to have anyone they choose to speak for them in the House of Commons. The result of that extended power would be that the Parliamentary machine would become more perfect; it would be able to do more work; it would make the basis of the Constitution wider, and, above all, it would assure to the great labour interest of the country its proper share of representation in this House. Not only so, but it would carry out the principle of trust in the people which, so far as I know, has never yet been found to weaken the power of the State, but, on the contrary, wherever it has been shown, has been attended with the greatest success.

(10.35.) LORD ELCHO (Ipswich)

I desire to dissociate myself as clearly as I can from the position taken up by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Fisher). It seems to me that he dealt with the Motion in a most ungracious and ungrateful manner. If I criticised the Motion at all it would not be to object to it, but to regret that it was so limited in its scope and application. Parliaments in this and other countries have passed self-denying ordinances, and for different reasons; but, as far as I know, this is the first occasion in which a Parliament has been asked to pass a self-enabling ordinance. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it is wise that we should make the precedent we are creating as wide and far-reaching as possible. I think the hon. Gentleman limited the Resolution unduly in many ways. Speaking for myself, looking back over nine years of totally unremunerated political services, I cannot help expressing my humble regret that he has not seen his way to make it retrospective. Of course, when we come to a period of over nine years, it would be well to consider if it would not be advisable to have some sort of commutation. We must remember also that there is a future to consider as well as a past, and we must take care that others do not reap the harvest of which we have sown the seed. We must remember that a political career will have its vicissitudes, that the flowing tide will also ebb, and it may be well to consider whether it would not be fair and just to make some provision for those who are left stranded at the bottom of the poll by the receding wave of popular favour. We ought also to remember that human life is uncertain, and to consider whether it would not be well to make some provision for the widows and orphans of Members who have succumbed during the execution of their Parliamentary duties. I observed in the speech of the hon. Member a certain vagueness as to the method of payment. I was recently struck with the admirable foresight and prudence of a new Member of the House, the hon. Member for North Wexford (Mr. T. J. Healy), who stipulated that his stipend should be paid quarterly, in advance. I hope we shall receive the same pleasant and acceptable form of payment. I should also like to ask whether we are to be rewarded independently of the qualities of our services, or whether the legislator must prove himself worthy of his hire; and, if so, by what test his merits are to be measured? Is it to be by the number of Divisions he has attended? In that case, our Parliamentary life would be one slow progress through the Division Lobbies. Or is it to be by the number and length of our speeches? In that case, Sir, your task will be a most invidious one, and we who are desirous of making speeches and earning our salaries, will look upon the Mover of the Closure in the light of a highway robber, who gags us before he robs us of our hard-earned pay. There is another argument in favour of the Motion. The First Lord of the Treasury is complaining of the arrears of Public Business, and I would recommend him to put the Vote for the salaries of Members of the House as the last Vote in Supply. I think it will be found that hon. Members will be considerably less anxious to reduce other people's salaries if thereby they are delaying the payment of their own. I cannot help complimenting the hon. Member, not only on the way in which he introduced his Motion, but also on the ingenuity of his phraseology. To make out that the constituencies are to be beneficiaries under this action seems to me a pious fiction which reflects the greatest credit on his ingenuity. I am rather inclined to doubt whether the constituencies will welcome it. I am inclined to believe that, so far as payment of Members has been welcomed in the country, it has been welcomed either by constituencies who were tired of paying their own Members, or, owing to a perfectly natural confusion of terms, by gentlemen who confused payment of Members with payment by Members. The hon. Member spoke of freedom of choice, but may that not become embarrassing? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down ought to speak very eloquently on that subject, because there were no less, I believe, than five hon. Gentlemen, more or less supporters of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, all anxious to add their little ripple to the flowing tide, and I am bound to say I watched with admiration the extraordinary manner in which Scotch Radicals carried out their desire to see Scotland preserved for the Scotch. They gave an Irish Member full power to say which among the many Englishmen and Scotchmen should be their Representative on that occasion. He made an excellent choice, and we have welcomed the hon. Member among as to-night. But if Irish Members are to be the peacemakers of the Radical Party, I cannot understand the hon. Member behind me—I cannot understand the Amendment of the hon. Member. If it is because Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are further from the seat of Government, I think that can be met by giving free passes over all the different railways to Members; and possibly the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. W. Lowther), in negotiating Commercial Treaties with foreign countries, might devise some method by which hon. Members in pursuit of health, recreation, or scientific research, might have free passes over all railways on the Continent. Now, Sir, what I am trying to make out is that in giving this Motion we should not deal with it in a niggardly and half-hearted spirit; let us be generous to ourselves as well as just to other people. I listened with great interest to the list of salaries read out by the hon. Member. He read out that one country gave £100 a year, not a cheer answered him; another gave £300, there was hardly a cheer; but, Sir, he said that America gave £1,000 a year, and then the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. J. M. Cameron), who was sitting below him, gave a hearty cheer. If only the hon. Member had raised his bid those cheers would have been more general, and not confined to the hon. Member for Wick. But the hon. Member is quite right. He has insinuatingly presented to us the thin end of the wedge, and it is for us to hammer it home, and see that the position of a Member of Parliament is something worth having—something worth fighting for. A man who seeks Parliamentary election has to make many sacrifices; he has to sacrifice his time and his money; he often sacrifices his health, and, perhaps, what should be as dear to some of them, often sacrifices his dearest principles and most cherished convictions. It seems to me, therefore, that they are justly entitled to some pecuniary compensation for the sacrifices they make—some wholesome antidote for those nauseous boluses which they are reluctantly compelled by their constituents to swallow. I hope and trust that we shall vote the payment of Members in a form which will enable those hon. Members who have struggled to gain a seat, who have won the battle and grasped the prize, to look forward in their declining years hopefully for themselves and their families to a future removed from all danger of want or indigence or necessity, and to be made comfortably off. I think the hon. Member will at least acquit me of having met his Motion in a grudging or niggardly spirit. I can only express, Sir, my profound regret that, having spoken as I have done, I am compelled to vote against the proposal of the hon. Member. I will state in two sentences why. It is because the eye of the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. MacNeill) is upon me. Sir, I have carefully examined the precedents, I have carefully studied the past, and I have come to the conclusion that, as the votes of the hon. Gentlemen which were rejected the other day were wrong, I cannot be right in voting for my salary to-night. I can in no way persuade myself that my pecuniary interest in this Motion is less direct and personal than was theirs on that occasion; and, though it may be an excess of humility on my part, I cannot flatter myself that any section of the community would be more benefited by paying me a salary than some section might have been by the railway for which those hon. Members voted. Therefore, Sir, I shall not only vote against this Motion, but I will cordially support the hon. Member opposite in taking those steps which honestly, morally, logically, and consistently, he is bound to take to purge and purify the Division List to-night of any of those who have any financial interest in the Motion.

(10.50.) SIR E. GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)

I will not attempt to pursue in detail the arguments which have been so ably laid before the House by the noble Lord. The noble Lord has pleaded for generous treatment of Members of Parliament. I am sure in our gratitude for his speech we all feel he has greatly enhanced our idea that a salary for a Member of Parliament is richly deserved. He has also spoken in feeling terms of the sacrifices which a man has to make in order to enter this House. Those who have heard his speech will be able to say that there is an extra inducement now added to enter the House, and that is the opportunity of hearing the speeches of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) seemed to convey that the idea of payment of Members was a new item in the Liberal programme; are the Party opposite to have the monopoly of new items? There will be many new items in the Liberal programme from time to time, and till they have appeared in that programme for several years there is no chance of their finding a place in the programme of the Conservative Party. I fully admit the good taste and generosity of the hon. Member in not pursuing in detail the argument how far payment of Members would affect the character of the vote in the House of Commons. I feel that that is one of the strongest arguments against the Resolution, and one which has been freely made use of by Ministers. We have been told by more than one Minister during the Recess that the payment of Members would lead to the introduction of a mass of professional politicians into the House. What is meant by professional politicians? Surely it does not mean that a man will devote too much time to politics. At the present day it becomes more and more a credit to a man that he sacrifices his private profession and puts politics in its place. In these days Members are returned not only to give votes, but to study social problems and to try, either in this House or in Committee, to arrive at a solution of them. But I think that is not what is in the mind of hon. Members when they speak of professional politicians. They fear the introduction of a class of men whose livelihood would be dependent on their political career—who would be nothing more than delegates or even worse, because they might be men with no fixed opinions of their own, whose minds might be tenanted by any opinions of the moment, and who would still keep the card in the window, "to let," on the chance of getting a higher bid. It is perfectly fair to argue that the granting of salaries to Members would give a handle for putting pressure on them, but it is easy to consider how far that would apply, and what rules might be framed to obviate that. There are already Members in this House who are paid; there are Labour Members, and I am sure I shall be within the mark in saying that they are not below the standard of character and ability which the House has been accustomed to see. Everybody admits that there are too few Labour Members in the House, and at the Conservative Conference at Birmingham a resolution was passed to the effect that it was desirable that there should be more Labour Members of Parliament, provided, of course, they were Unionists. The Resolution we are discussing would do something to bring more Labour Members into the House; it would not only increase their number, but would improve their position. They would no longer be dependent on constituencies or unions, or any section of electors for the payment of their salaries. The amount of the salary would be fixed and be paid by the State; the payment would be certain, and though Members would be dependent on the constituencies for their seats, the payment of the salary would have nothing to do with the men to whom they must apply for votes. I think the passing of the Resolution would tend to bring more local men before the constituencies of the country, which is a most important point. It is true that pressure might be applied to a man dependent on a salary, but how is that pressure to be best resisted? Surely that which best enables a man to resist pressure is conviction. Constituencies are, I believe, good judges of a man's character, and they desire, above all things, even above exact agreement with their own views, sincerity and earnestness, and if they can find that they will have it. If you had more local men as candidates you would find that there would be a greater guarantee that the men elected were men of whom the constituencies had more time to judge, and men of more robust material, and, therefore, better able to resist the pressure which might be brought to bear on them through their salary. The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks Beach) has said that the country would be flooded with youthful barristers and penny-a-liners. I do not know why he should speak with so much contempt of these two classes of people. We have lately had an example of a gentleman who has held high office in the State, who has fulfilled, not without distinction, some of the lighter functions of journalism, and there may be among the ranks of youthful barristers and penny-a-liners men who may be qualified to fill the office of President of the Board of Trade. The passing of the Resolution will not give them an extra chance, unless they are local men, but rather diminish their opportunities. Then it is said that the class of men who enter the House will, as a whole, be altered; that we shall no longer have men drawn almost exclusively from the class possessing wealth, leisure, and education. I admit that men of wealth, leisure, and education, who make the best use of their opportunities, make excellent Members of Parliament. But in the minds of the electors there is a tendency to suppose that men of wealth, because they have a great stake in the country, are apt to confuse their notion of public spirit with their anxiety about their own particular stake. I think it is true to say that among men of leisure you are just as likely, as in any other class, to find men who are actuated by prejudice and indifference, men, therefore, who are fitted only to represent themselves or to represent a limited class, and such men of indifference are surety in a condition of infinite elasticity, far more open to pressure than men of reasonable and moderate convictions, even though such men have a salary. As for the prestige which the Chancellor of the Exchequer says would be diminished, I say that the prestige of a Member of Parliament depends entirely on his own merits. The prestige attaches less to the office and more to the man, and the prestige of a Member of Parliament will be enhanced rather than otherwise by the fact that there has been an open field for all other competitors. Nothing would diminish more the prestige of a Member of Parliament than the knowledge amongst his constituents that his election had been in any way rather a process of exclusion than of selection, and that there were other men whom they would have chosen if they had had a chance of standing. The Secretary for War took the line that if Members of Parliament were to be paid he should retire from public life, and I fancy the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher) pursued the same argument.


I did not say so.


I will accept the hon. Gentleman's statement, but I cannot understand why, on the part of the Secretary for War, that threat should have been made. The right hon. Gentleman could not be afraid of the effect of a salary on himself, for he already receives a salary of some thousands, and I am sure we all feel that if he in any way thought his own character was being shamed by receiving that salary he would resign either the salary or the office. But if he receives a salary already he could surely stand the strain of a few extra hundreds. It must, therefore, be a matter of sentiment with the right hon. Gentleman, and I admit that the plea of sentiment is very strong. But it will not be as the paid Representatives of our constituents that we shall be here. The tendency is more and more to make the work of Parliament Imperial and not local, and it will be for Imperial work that we shall be paid by the State, and the private services that we render to our constituents will be as gratuitous as they are at present. One point we ought to bring out clearly, and that is that if Members of Parliament are to be paid all Members must be paid. The payment must not be restricted to those who chose to apply for it; for it would never do for any Member to be open to the stigma of pauperism being brought against him. It would not do for a sitting Member who had declined a salary to go down to his constituents and be opposed by a man who it was known would have to receive the salary. The agents of the Member, or perhaps the Member himself, would be certain to bring that as the chief argument against his opponent, and the conditions would be such that they could be agreeable neither to the candidate nor to the constituency. But it will always be open to hon. Members to return their salary. The Chancellor of the Exchequer already receives a considerable amount in the form of conscience money, and I think that Members of Parliament who feel that the salary is in excess of their merits, or have scruples about receiving any salary at all, will be at liberty to copy the anonymous donors of unpaid income tax. But the main argument upon which this question rests is that the change is inevitable. It is part of a much larger question. It follows from the spread of education, and the extension of the suffrage. The spread of Socialism has multiplied manifold the number of men who are perfectly fit to become Members of this House and to do useful public service, but who have not the means to enter Parliament. It will be wise, I think, if we consider this fact in time. In the old days the House of Commons used to be looked upon as the guardian of the liberties of the people. It is now something more than that, and is rapidly becoming, if it is not so already, the repository of supreme power. It may be that with all the stress of labour and industrial questions before us, the Government of this country will have to undertake wide and practical remedial legislation and possibly—though I hope not—have to make use of the strong hand. To do this they will have to depend upon the support of this House, and this House will be but a broken reed to lean upon if it does not possess the confidence of every class in the community. I have already come in contact more than once with a symptom from which we ought to take warning, and that is the attempt on the part of men who have character and influence amongst the working classes to represent that the House of Commons was not to be trusted, and that people should cease to look to it because from it they could have no hope. They say that they have not free choice of candidates, and the House is composed far too largely of capitalists. You may answer in return, and I think many people have answered, that a capitalist of large and generous views is a good and trustworthy Member. The rejoinder is that the constituencies have so little choice, and that all capitalists do not hold large and generous views. These men are therefore beginning to distrust the House of Commons. The effect of the recent organisation of the working-class has had a tremendous influence in spreading this feeling. They have lately become more conscious of their own existence, and are brimful of hope, earnestness, and resolution, and nothing would be more dangerous at the present day than to do anything which would seem to induce the suspicion that we did not wish to have Members of the working classes in this House. The current of the time has set in favour of the Labour Party, and if that current runs its natural course it will assume dimensions which are perfectly healthy and in no way extravagant, but if you dam the stream it may break forth in flood. The struggles for the extension of the suffrage have raised suspicions in the minds of the working classes as to the readiness of the other classes to admit them to political power. We should be very careful to avoid the continuance of that feeling, and this question of the payment of Members is one which touches that suspicion very nearly. The vote itself has been given freely, and the choice of candidates ought to be given freely also, and nothing will more tend to allay class differences and class suspicion than to show an open and generous mind on this question. It may be that the working class will not in very large numbers, at any rate at first, return Members of their own class to this House, but they feel strongly that they ought to have the chance and possibility of doing so. It is ours to give them that chance and theirs to say what use they will make of it. Those who wish to maintain the supremacy of this House as the ultimate authority to be looked to by the people for the remedy of all political difficulties and for the solution of all social questions, ought to remember that the power and prestige of this House must be impaired so long as anyone can say with any foundation or shadow of truth that the entrance to this House is so constructed that there are difficulties great and almost insuperable in the way of Members of that class, of which the majority of the voters are composed, gaining admission into the ranks of Members of Parliament.

(11.10.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

I think all those who have listened as I have done to every word that has fallen in this Debate will agree with me that it has been a Debate of singularly great and varied interest. We have had a very brilliant and amusing speech from my noble Friend below the Gangway on this side of the House, we have the very eloquent and manly utterance of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, we have had the able speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, we have had a speech by a new Member, and we have had a number of other speeches which have certainly done ample justice to a very grave and important subject. I do not propose at this hour of the evening long to delay the House with the expression of my own views and I hope it will not be thought in such remarks as I have to make that I desire to imply that all the arguments are on one side in connection with this subject. I am perfectly ready to admit that in much that has fallen from the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division, and in the speech of other Members on the same side there is much matter worthy of the serious consideration of the House. I do not for a moment pretend that there is nothing to be said in favour of the contention that they have advanced. I do not go further than this, that after so much consideration as I have been able to give to the matter, I think that the balance of advantage is very decidedly in the opposite direction from that in which they appear to think it is. Some hon. Members suppose that in this matter they are representing the popular view of the subject. I have very great doubt about that. They would I imagine desire that if their scheme ever came into practical operation the cost of it should fall not upon the rates but upon the Consolidated Fund. That I believe is always the proposal but why the distinction? They know perfectly well if the cost fell upon the rates, or in other words if the fact were brought home to every elector in this country that he had to pay the cost of his Representative, the measure would bear a much less popular appearance than it now does. I do not wish to lay too much stress upon that, but I think unless hon. Members can say that the ratepayers as ratepayers are prepared to support this burden, they can hardly say that this measure, be it good or bad, is one for which the public are anxiously panting. So far as I have been able to listen to the arguments advanced to-night in favour of the Amendment they practically resolve themselves into this, that by our present system, the area of selection on the part of the constituencies is greatly limited, dangerously limited, and that the area of choice open to them practically excludes a large number of poor men who would be able to represent the working classes more efficiently and more immediately than at present we represent them, and who would also be great ornaments to our debates. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, in supporting the main part of his contention gave us to understand that in his judgment the whole flow of what he described as the democratic movement was in the direction of giving this very large and extended choice to constituencies in selecting those persons who should represent them. I am not sure that such observations as I have been able to make harmonise with that view. What takes place in America? In America you have Members who are not long paid, but paid at a very high rate—a rate far higher than the hon. Gentleman could desire to see adopted in this country. But do the American constituencies show this great desire as anxiously for the extension of area in the selection of candidates? I think they do not. They have imposed a limitation upon the selection of their Members, which I will not say destroys the character for ability of the House of Representatives, for I have no doubt that House contains many very able men, but which certainly must diminish the amount of available ability, because as I understand the American system they absolutely confine themselves by custom, if not by law, to selecting persons who live in the constituency for which they propose to act.


They reside not in the constituency but in the State.


Without destroying the value of my argument, I can admit that the hon. Gentleman is right. But whether it be in the constituency or in the State the limit exists, and it is of a kind that if adopted in this country would entirely destroy the character of the House of Commons. The right hon. Member for Midlothian would no longer be able to represent Midlothian, the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division would no longer be able to represent Glasgow, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, would no longer be able to represent Bury, and a similar disability would attach to many other Members of that Front Bench and also of this Bench, and to many other leading Members of the House. The constituencies in England have already a far greater choice than that which the American constituencies have by custom restricted themselves to. I think it is shown, therefore, that demand for a wide area of choice is not an invariable or necessary characteristic of even the most democratic constituencies. But let us consider the other aspect of this solitary argument in favour of the Amendment. That other aspect is that under the existing system the working classes are not adequately represented in this House. I frankly admit that I should like to see more gentlemen in this House like the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, and like some of his colleagues, who would represent the Labour interest in a manner more immediate, perhaps, and more direct, than it is possible that Members of this House are able to do. But although I think we might with great advantage increase the number of such direct Labour Representatives, I cannot admit that the interests of the working classes are likely to be ignored by any section or Party of this House. Surely the House must be aware that at the present moment the working classes hold the balance, and much more than the balance, in the constituencies. They have in the hollow of their hand the Parliamentary and political destiny of almost every man who sits in this House, and to suppose that interests which have this backing are likely to be ignored by persons who depend upon the working classes for support is to ignore the very mainsprings upon which the political action of Representative Assemblies depends for its ultimate resort. I cannot believe, therefore, that, whatever may be the advantage of having more gentlemen like the Member for the Wansbeck Division or the Member for Morpeth, that the absence of a large Labour Party—an exclusively Labour Party—in this House has, or could have, any effect that could be antagonistic or detrimental to the real interests of the working classes. Before I come to the arguments against the Resolution, I will mention one other argument that has been raised in its favour. We have been told, with perfect truth, that there are a considerable number of men of capacity and ambition who would desire to devote their time and ability to Parliamentary work, but who find it impossible to do so in consequence of the fact that they have to earn their living in other ways. I think that is true; and I think, so far as it goes, it is an unfortunate and an unhappy fact. But I do not think that the efficiency and character of this House would necessarily be improved by turning every Member of Parliament into a great orator. To take one practical instance: take the most distinguished Parliamentary figure in this House, and conceive 670 such gentlemen—670 repetitions of the right hon. Gentleman—can you conceive the Parliamentary machine moving at all? For my own part, it seems to be the reductio ad absurdum, for you will see that it is possible to have too much of that special kind of ability which has been described as Parliamentary. So much for the arguments in favour of the Resolution, and I think we may now very profitably consider the arguments which may be advanced against it. The first argument is the argument of finance. I do not wish to lay too much stress upon it, but it is an argument which you cannot possibly ignore. The cost of the Members of Parliament—£300 a year, which we are all to get if this Resolution is carried—[An hon. MEMBER: £365.] Well, say £500 if you like, it does not matter—would be, roughly speaking, a quarter of a million. You must add to that the cost of the election now borne by the candidate himself or by his Party. You must throw in, in addition, all the salaries of County Councillors, Members of Boards of Guardians, Municipal Corporations, and the salaries of all elected officers, and, in fact, of all that enormous mass of work which is now perfectly well done for nothing, but which, if this system of payment of Members of Parliament is adopted, must manifestly be paid in future. (Opposition cheers.) I am not going beyond the arguments which hon. Members opposite would advance, and I gather from their cheers that they entirely accept the deduction I have made from the principles they have advanced. But the cost of that would be enormous; and if the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty were to come down here and ask for a similar addition to the cost of the Army or Navy, there would be a howl from the economists on the other side of the House, and we could not contemplate throwing such a sum either upon the rates or upon the Public Exchequer without considerable alarm. And of this I am certain: that whether this new system which is proposed would or would not give us the best governmental machinery in the world, it would give us by far the most expensive machinery both of Imperial and local administration, and would be a burden on the taxpayers and on the ratepayers that neither rates nor taxes could easily be made to bear. The Member for Kirkcaldy appeared to think, indeed he directly stated, that the cost that would be thrown upon the community would be saved in the first five years by the great economies which would be effected in every branch of the Public Service, and that the new Parliament would be mainly anxious, by careful discussion of the Estimates to prevent the taxpayer from paying exorbitant sums which could be reduced. He meant, in fact, that every Member of Parliament would earn his keep. The hon. Gentleman is a new Member, and I think, when he has seen a little more of the manner in which we conduct our discussions, he will find that those Members who pride themselves on representing democratic constituencies are not those who are constantly pressing the Government to retrench, but are pressing the Government to expend. Let this be observed before I leave the question of finance: that the burden would not only be heavy, but inequitable. As the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down observed, if you carry out this system you must pay everyone. You cannot pay a Member here and a Member there. You cannot pay a Member who represents the working classes, and not pay a Member who represents villadom. I accept that as perfectly true; and the deduction is that you compel nine-tenths of the constituencies who do not want their Members paid, and who can get Members to represent them for nothing, to pay men who do not wish to be paid, in order that here and there a constituency which desires that its Member should be paid may have its wishes gratified. This question of finance is, I will admit, a subordinate one, and must be a subordinate one; but I think the question is important enough to throw upon hon. Gentlemen opposite the whole burden of the proof of their case. Surely if there is anything in which the English people have for many generations justly gloried, it is in the amount of gratuitous, not paid work which has been got out of the community, and used for public purposes. If you adopt this proposal you will kill at the root the spirit that has produced this gratuitous work; you will give it a blow from which it will never recover; you will put the Parliamentary stamp upon the theory that a man who gives his services for nothing is a fool. I would also remind the House that the changes which would be involved in this proposal are not confined, in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen who make it, to the alteration in the amount of gratuitous labour that would be given throughout the country—labour bearing on public life. It is frankly admitted that the result would be that a large number of candidates would start up in many of the constituencies, and the logical conclusion to be drawn from it is this—that we are not to retain our existing system of a single election—but that it will be necessary to have a double ballot as they have in France, and perhaps more, before the election of a Member could be completed. Therefore, let the House make no mistake. This is not a small matter merely effecting financial changes. It radically affects the whole system of election—it goes to the root of our electoral method, which have been in operation for centuries, and it imports foreign methods of dealing with this question, which may have a very far-reaching and unexpected effect upon the Parliamentary Government, which is also the free Government, of this country. One most important object after all I have still to come to. It is the effect which this system would have upon the character and position of this House. I think that a very great mistake has been made by every speaker in this Debate who has dealt with this particular aspect of the question. They all assumed that we, who object to the proposal and express our fear as to its result on the character of the House, are insinuating that the receipt of public money for services rendered is in itself a degrading thing. It would be impossible for anyone sitting on this Bench, at all events, to take that view of it, nor is such a view taken, I believe, by anyone who shares the view I am expressing. There is nothing degrading in taking the public money for public services, I agree with the hon. Member for Wansbeck when he says that a Member who receives £300 a year from the State is not more degraded than the Minister who receives £3,000 or £4,000 a year. But that is not the point. The point is that the whole relation between a Member and his constituency is vitally altered. No longer would it be a relation between a constituency and its Representative, but it would become a relation between those who give patronage and those who receive patronage. At present the constituencies can confer honour and position, but they cannot give money; but directly you make a Member a paid official of the constituency you alter the whole position, and for the worse. I quite admit that there are Gentlemen in this House who are paid by their constituents. I also admit that that is a position which, under the circumstances, does honour to them and to their constituents. But all this would be put an end to if the system of payment is made general. The constituency becomes then the patron, and the Member becomes a paid servant. Now, I do not wish to discuss the question whether a Member should be a delegate or a representative. A great deal of pedantic nonsense has been said upon that subject. I do not think it is possible for any man of sense to lay down any hard-and-fast rule on that subject. It is clear that on many questions we are the delegates, and simply the delegates, of our constituents. In matters of local interest we come here as delegates. I do not deny it. Let it also be understood that in almost all the larger questions of national interest we are not delegates, but representatives. In all the great questions which move the interest of the Empire, we hold to our constituents a relation of a different and more honourable—if I may say so—and a more important kind. Now, all that would be altered if Members were paid—they would be compelled to go round the political compass. They would be delegates and nothing but delegates; and they would be regarded by their constituents as labourers unworthy of their hire if they did not in every detail carry out the wishes of this or that particular group who returned them to Parliament. It appears to me that if such a result were to follow the proposal of the hon. Gentleman it would deal a blow against the greatest political institution that perhaps the world has ever seen. An hon. Member said in the course of his speech that nothing would induce him to do anything that would lower the political character or position of a Member of Parliament. I am sure he would not, and I am convinced that this protestation comes from his heart. But although the spirit and character of the institution might show an extraordinary power of surviving the greatest alterations of external circumstances, there are poisons which, if once introduced into the system, will slowly but surely corrupt its life blood, and destroy all of health and all of manhood that is in it. If you once adopt this system of paying Members you will have taken the first step towards making the English House of Commons the same as other Representative Assemblies unfortunately are—you will have, taken the first stop towards destroying that independent life and dignity which it has enjoyed for so many centuries. If that is to be the case, no advantage that may be obtained in the way of increasing the area of selection in this or that stray constituency can possibly make up for the incurable wound you will have inflicted upon the British Constitution.

(11.40.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by telling us that we imagined that we represented the popular view, but that this was not the popular view. Now I do not admit that it is, and I do not refuse to believe that it is; but of one thing I am sure, and it is that it has been from the purely public point of view that this question has been argued on both sides of the House, for the most artistic and excellent speech of the noble Lord opposite was that of a humourist, and did not profess to be anything else. It was argued entirely from the public point of view, and not from the view of the personal interest of Members. Now the right hon. Gentleman went straight to the argument which is at the bottom of our contention in this matter, and we have good reason to be obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division because he has put into the Resolution the main argument for it. It is that it limits the choice of Members, and you cannot complete the work of the last two generations—the enlargement of the franchise of the country—until you have given the constituencies a clear choice. I listened to every word the right hon. Gentleman said on the cardinal question, and I do not think that he brought forward any argument or intended to bring forward any argument against the position of my hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman took the case of America, and said that there, so far from there being unlimited choice, Members must be taken from the locality to be represented. There is no use in bringing foreign instances to bear upon this question, when we are quite sure what the tendency in our own country is. There is no objection at all in this country to take candidates from a distance, and there is every desire to take candidates from all classes, whereas at present they can be taken from only one class. There is no class in this country whose representation we wish to see increased more than the class of working-men. The working-men Members are admirable Members for the interests of working-men—those interests which are not opposed to the general interests of the community. They have great influence on our legislation, and they are very good Members of Parliament for general purposes. I suppose if we had 40 or 50 working-men Members in the House of Commons, judging from the specimens we have had of them already, we should say that they were not too many; but under the present system it is impossible to get them, because the position of a Member of Parliament, while it is compatible with a man's making his living by the law, in business, or even by literature—though that is very uphill work—is absolutely incompatible with a man's making his living by means of manual labour. Now that is the main point of our contention, and the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to break it down. The right hon. Gentleman said that constituencies have done themselves the honour of finding incomes for their Members. He referred, I believe, only to the urban constituencies which return working men Members. But, surely, it is a very great exception when we remember that there is not a single rural constituency which now returns a working man, or one who even belongs to the lower middle class. Why is this? It is because the wages of the working men in the rural constituencies are so low. Well, that is the very reason we want to have them directly represented. In the constituencies that are thus represented there is, generally speaking, a high standard of comfort—the cottages are good, and the people have high wages; but there is not one single Member who can speak directly for the people in those districts where cottages are bad—the rural population who most require to be benefited by legislation. It will not encourage constituencies to find incomes for their Members when they find it said in this House that if people want to have the luxury of working-men Members they must pay for it—that is to say, the working men are to be told that that which they first did as a high-spirited and generous piece of self-sacrifice is to be turned into a permanent tax upon them if they wish to have working men to represent them. Now, I want to go straight to the question which the right hon. Gentleman raised, and I wish to say that I do not hold the same opinion as he does with regard to another class to which this Resolution applies—the men of limited means who are not working men. There is a very great number of men who would make excellent Members of Parliament who are willing to make certain sacrifices, but who cannot make the final life-long sacrifice of giving up every chance of earning their livelihood. The right hon. Gentleman says that if you get into the House so many men of great Parliamentary talents—I do not remember the exact description he gave—the competition between them would make it a bear garden; but is it not the case that the men of high education and culture in this House are rather silent than speaking Members? I know many such who are anxious to give their talents and their energies to the service of their country, but who cannot go into an absolutely unpaid profession—the one unpaid profession—the service of their country in the House of Commons. If you had 40 or 50 of them, instead of the business of the country being delayed by their vanity it would be helped forward by their modesty, their self-denial, and their public spirit. Then I come to the question of unpaid services. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking, I am quite satisfied, from his heart, says: "Are you going to strike at the root of the greatest glory of this country—the unpaid services which are rendered?" I do not believe you would be doing so in the least by passing this Resolution, because the services of a Member of Parliament are of a very different character from what are ordinarily called the unpaid services of the country. By the unpaid services are meant the members of Municipalities, Justices of the Peace, and Poor Law Guardians. The Member of Parliament not only works without a salary, but he makes very great money sacrifices in addition. In the first place, he has to face an election in which no Member can hope to reduce his personal expenses, by the greatest economy, under about £150. In the second place, there are the general electioneering expenses, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury has done so much to reduce. Then the Member for Parliament has to live for many months in the year in what is not the most expensive city in the world, but the most expensive abiding place in this country. How can these services be compared with those of a Justice of the Peace, who drives once a week to the county town with horses which he would keep anyhow, or with the services of a member of the Municipality? The Member of Parliament has to give the whole of his time for eight months in the year, and a very great deal of his time in the remaining four months, and his is the only occupation that is unpaid. Why should he not be paid? Why should the man who collects the taxes be paid when the man who imposes them gets nothing? Why should the man who drafts Bills be remunerated when he who passes them is not paid? There is nothing in the nature of the work of a Member of Parliament which unfits him for being paid, while there is everything in his sacrifices of time and money which calls for it. The right hon. Gentleman says, "See how it would lower his credit in the eyes of his constituents. They now give him position—they don't give him cash; they now give him honour—they don't give him money." That is to say, they give him prestige and not position, the thing which the rich man desires; but, on the other hand, the man whom the constituencies want is excluded from serving them and from serving his country. The service to his country, which is the highest of all services, should be paid as Ministerial duties are paid-—adequately, but not excessively. By that means many public-spirited men would be enabled to serve their country who at present are unable to do so without sacrificing their families and all that makes life dear to them.

(11.48.) MR. ROBY (Lancashire, S.E., Eccles)

I have no desire to detain the House. I only wish to explain the reason why I should vote for this proposal. I should do it, not because I agree with it generally, but because, if it is carried, I should propose to add to it words which would make it applicable only in those cases in which it is required. In that way I am prepared to vote for it, but I am not prepared to vote generally for forcing £300 or £400 a year upon men who do not require it.

Question put.

(12.0.) The House divided:—Ayes 227; Noes 162.—(Div. List, No. 53.)

Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

SUPPLY—Committee upon Monday next.